The article in Sunday Star on July 6 by Zainah Anwar of Sisters of Islam, entitled ‘Ripe for the plucking’ tackles the real issue behind how and why young Malaysian men become indoctrinated into extremist ideology.
It establishes a clear link between the appeasement of bigots by the domestic political elites and how it influences young men who are willing to lay their lives for a cause such as the Syrian conflict .
While there is concerned among political authorities of certain Malay Muslim young men turning into sectarian militants, there is lack of action to stop the anti-Shiite and anti-Christian propaganda in the country.
Is it not true that there is similar anti-Shiite and anti-Christian sentiment among militants in the Syria that has resulted in the displacement and pogrom of minority communities in that country?
The author has grabbed the bull by its horns by addressing the state of religious bigotry in Malaysia.
Malaysia today is going through a very delicate situation where fellow citizens who are Christians and Shiites are portrayed as enemies who are bent in usurping the supremacy of Islam in this country.
One of the major characteristics of religious type bigots are they are soaked in a self seeking identity where the world is seen in a black and white fashion.
Secularism or religion
For example they like to make a black and white distinction between religion and secularism without understanding there are elements of similarity between both especially on values of equality, social justice and compassion.
There are secularists who are religious but do not support the dominance of any religion in the public domain. This shows that goodness could be seen in complexity which does not harm religion.
For religious bigots anyone who does not share their religious ideology and identity is regarded as an enemy. They hide behind emotional slogans of protecting religion where the actual fact is they have place religion into an ideo-legalistic cocoon where liberating religion from them has become a great necessity.
It is vital for politicians, Muslim Intellectuals and religious authorities to get to the root cause of why such thinking as emerge in moderate Malaysia. Is it due to close ideological ties between Malaysia and Saudi Arabian religious and political elites who have strong influence on religious leaders in this country?
International commentators of global politics have pointed out the role Saudi Arabia has played in supporting rebels in Syria besides the role of reinforcing the divide between Sunni and Shiite communities.
Are the current religious bodies influenced by the religious and ideological orientation of this particular state?
Is religion deliberately distorted and manipulated to create scenario where there could be rallying cry to support a particular political party whose support among unban electorate has been reduced since the 2008 general election?
Are Malaysians indoctrinated?
Is religious education and indoctrination in schools and universities are based on the link between faith and reason or is it based ideological construct that is based on religious supremacy where there no room for reasoned discourse?
Blaming fellow citizens of different ethnic and religious orientation, secularism or the West for all the ills plaguing a community will not solve problems because it is base on a reactive emotional behavior rather than a proactive behavior that is rooted in values and willing to understand and to be understood in a reasoned manner.
It is time that political leadership and intellectuals who support a progressive Malaysia to start taking action and play a critical role to bring back Malaysia into a middle part before the country is destroyed by ethno-religious bigots.
This could be done by dialogue and reasoning on the complexity of identity based Islam and how it is effecting inter-ethnic and religious ties in the country. Such discourse should be held in the public domain, universities and discourse in the media.
The time is ticking and it is time for the political leadership to act proactively to prevent a distorted understanding of religion that could cause a situation where there is no turning back. The involvement of Malaysian young men in the sectarian conflict in Syrian soil portrays this reality.